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Jacques Maritain: Man’s Approach to God

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Man’s Approach to God was the fifth lecture in the Wimmer Memorial Lecture Series (1947-1970) at Saint Vincent and was given in 1951 by Jacques Maritain.

Maritain was one of the most influential figures in the Thomastic revival of the 20th century. Both in his persona life and in his prolific academic corpus, Maritain modeled the Church’s commitment to the interrelationship between faith and reason.

His Wimmer lecture is a model specimen of this approach.. Maritain’s Man’s Approach to God is a three-part lecture. In it, he seeks to explain how man comes to know God existentially, as well as how faith responds to and completes this search for meaning. This lecture grew out of his desire to show that every human being, and not just philosophers, can penetrate into the depths of reality, for all bear within themselves the indelible image of God and are equally called to the communion of “love for God and love for our brothers [as] a single love of charity.”

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Man’s Approach to God was the fifth lecture in the Wimmer Memorial Lecture Series (1947-1970) at Saint Vincent and was given in 1951 by Jacques Maritain. Maritain was one of the most influential figures in the Thomastic revival of the 20th century.

Both in his persona life and in his prolific academic corpus, Maritain modeled the Church’s commitment to the interrelationship between faith and reason. So seriously did he take his intellectual commitments in his student years that, along with soon-to-be wife, Raissa Oumansoff, he made a suicide pact that he would only break if he could find some meaning to life.

This search ultimately led him to Catholicism. Maritain’s works reveal an active mind capable of applying his speculative thought to virtually any subject. Every one of his works was an exploration of reason and its limits, and of how faith completes the natural desire to know. His Wimmer lecture is a model specimen of this approach.

Maritain’s Man’s Approach to God is a three-part lecture. In it, he seeks to explain how man comes to know God existentially, as well as how faith responds to and completes this search for meaning. This lecture grew out of his desire to show that every human being, and not just philosophers, can penetrate into the depths of reality, for all bear within themselves the indelible image of God and are equally called to the communion of “love for God and love for our brothers [as] a single love of charity.”

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) was one of the most influential figures in the Thomistic revival of the 20th century. Both in his personal life and in his prolific academic corpus, Maritain modeled the Church’s commitment to the interrelationship between faith and reason. As John Paul II so eloquently put it, “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Fides et Ratio, Introduction); this saying nicely summarizes Maritain’s life and work.

It cannot be doubted that Maritain saw the pursuit of the Truth as a way of life and not just as an academic exercise. So seriously did he take his intellectual commitments in his student years that, along with his soon-to-be wife, Raïssa Oumansoff, he made a suicide pact that he would only break if he could find some meaning to life. Under the influence of Charles Péguy, he attended Henri Bergson’s lectures and began to see the possibility of a deeper purpose that could not be captured by the scientism that dominated French intellectual culture. His willingness to follow reason wherever it may lead ultimately resulted in his conversion to Catholicism and lifelong devotion to Thomistic thought.

Maritain’s works reveal an active mind capable of applying his speculative thought to virtually any subject. In general, one could say that every one of his works was an exploration of reason and its limits, and of how faith completes the natural desire to know. His 1951 Wimmer Lecture, Man’s Approach to God, is a model specimen of this approach. While the way he addresses his topic, human “knowledge of the existence of God” (Man’s Approach to God, 17), places him squarely within the Catholic tradition, he takes seriously the Church’s claim that God can be known via His creation apart from supernatural revelation. In this three-part lecture, Maritain seeks to explain how man comes to know God existentially, as well as how faith responds to and completes this search for meaning.

The introduction to the lecture was written by Dr. Michael Krom of Saint Vincent College.

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Weight .062369 lbs
Dimensions 2.95276 × 2.066929 × .0984252 in

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